WarWhere Does the Money Go, When It Comes In?

The Quad Cities of Iowa/Illinois has an entire island devoted to munitions manufacturing, Arsenal Island. In fiscal year 2006, according to the Consolidated Funds Report for 2006, the most recent year for which reports are available, nearly $166 million in defense contracting dollars flowed into Scott and Rock Island counties, up from $95 million in 2002. Contracts made up 7.7 cents of every dollar coming into the area.

The report, released in April, tracked 3,000 counties across the United States and $2.45 trillion dollars in domestic spending.

Salaries for federal employees account for almost 13 cents of every dollar coming in to the Quad Cities. More than 9 cents of that total of $198 million went to Defense Department workers at the Rock Island Arsenal, mentioned above, which even has a cemetery in which Confederate prisoners of war from the Civil War are buried.

Our of every incoming dollar, 98 cents—almost one full buck—goes to Retired Military personnel. Another $1.16 goes to defense contracts for munitions and equipment such as those machines I snapped while touring on the island recently. Salaries for inactive military account for 67 cents of every dollar. Defense contracts pull in $7.76. Payments to disabled veterans or the families of soldiers killed in battle account for $22.5 million dollars, or 1% of the total. $133,199,438 thousand went to Defense Contracts in fiscal year 2006, after the Iraq War started by George W. Bush reached full flower, for Rock Island County, where Arsenal Island is located, and $33,148,093 went to Scott Country in Iowa (which has no comparable military base presence), for a total of $166,347,531 or 7.76%.

By far the biggest federal domestic payouts, though, …$20.56% amounting to $440,541,900 in the Quad Cities, …was paid out for Social Security. The next biggest % on the Quad City Times chart (taken from the Consolidated Funds Report for 2006)…and a drop of nearly half, was 9.27% for the salaries for Defense Department civilians: a whopping $198,612,000. I know that, in my years in business, the three biggest employers in the Quad Cities’ area were John Deere (Moline is their international headquarters), Alcoa Aluminum (Bettendorf/Pleasant Valley) and Arsenal Island. Naturally, during a time of war, the take is better for a high security facility that houses what was the second-largest official residence for a government official after the White House, Quarters One, for the Commandant of the Arsenal, which is now being mothballed because it is too expensive to maintain and too antiquated to bring up to code.

I went on a tour of Quarters One during a recent Ladies Auxiliary function, and was amazed at the size of the place and the outdatedness of all the military residences on the island. There was only one “house” that looked modern and livable by modern-day standards.

You first pass a series of what appear to be low-income housing…squat buildings that do not look the least bit inviting. After that, you get to the different houses that are home to the families of the brass. While they are definitely bigger, better does not seem to be the right term. Almost all seem to date from the late 1800’s and the screened-in porch just isn’t the draw it used to be before air conditioning. The problem is that the kitchens and bathrooms of nearly every facility I saw (save one) looked like they had not been updated since the seventies. When I asked why that was, it was explained to me by a resident officer that each family gets an ‘allowance” for repairs and modernization and updates to their temporary assigned residence. What happens, however, if the roof gives out during your tour of duty? Then you are on the pan to fix it, and your budgeted amount may not be sufficient. Therefore, knowing that their lives are always in transit, most residents do not see the wisdom in sinking much into the improvement(s) of their quarters, let alone into upgrading and updating them.

Here are pictured some weapons seen alongside the roads of Arsenal Island, and one of the cemeteries, honoring soldiers killed in battle. Sometimes, you can hear the Army “testing” large cannons or guns over the river…or at least you could back in the day. One never knows what is being manufactured “over there” and guards will check you as you drive on and off the island,. But one thing is for sure: business is good, right now, with a huge hawk in the White House, and, if the nominee of his party, John McCain, prevails in November, the war business could be good for another hundred years.